Tetley Talks: Civilization and its Discontents

Leeds Salon hosts its second series of talks in partnership with The Tetley

Civilization and its Discontents takes place in The Tetley over three Saturday afternoons in November and December, and will look at some key and controversial 19th and 20th thinkers and their reactions to and influences upon the modern world.

Doors open 3:45pm -for a 4pm start - to 5:30pm. After each which talk we’ll retire to The Tetley bar area for a drink and to chat more informally.

Admission: £4 to pay on the day, but please reserve places by e-mail at contact@leedssalon.org.uk.

Freud and the Repressive Society

Sigmund FreudSaturday 14 November

Ground Floor Gallery

Sigmund Freud is known as the founder of psychoanalysis. But in the 1920s and 30s he shifted his focus from the individual psyche to society and culture – applying the study of the individual to the development of civilization. Writing in Civilization and its Discontents, amongst the difficulties he saw as “inherent in the nature of civilization”, the “the greatest obstacle” was man’s innate “tendency to aggression”.

For Freud, the very development of civilization was a result of “humanity’s struggle for existence”, not so much over external nature as over its own natural instincts; that is, between aggression - or “the death drive” - and Eros - or “the life drive”. Key to this struggle was his concept of “repression”, in which a cultural superego repressed individual drives through the influence of guilt. The result of this repression, for Freud, is anxiety and neurosis that are to be brought under control, if at all, only lightly.


Speaker: Michael Fitzpatrick worked as a general practitioner in East London for 25 years. He writes on a wide range of health and social issues for a range of medical and mainstream publications, and is the author of: The Tyranny of Health(2000), MMR and Autism(2004), and Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion(2008).


Herbert Spencer and the Organic Society

Herbert SpencerSaturday 28 November

City Workshop (Second Floor)

Herbert Spencer is seen as the father of Social Darwinism; though it’s a term only later applied to him. In fact, the ideas of Social Darwinism – that society is governed by biological laws, independent of human will - pre-date both Spencer and Darwin. Spencer was one of the most popular thinkers of the nineteenth century whose conception of the organic society, and notions of progress and change governed by the law of “the survival of the fittest”, remained hugely influential well into the twentieth century on the politics of both right and left, and in the disciplines of sociology and Freudian psychology; and are arguably still evident today in explanations of society phenomena.

However, Ellie Lee will argue that Social Darwinism’s most important and lasting legacy is in the undermining of human agency. For Spencer, if society is governed by laws of nature, human agency is not only undermined, but becomes dangerous to social evolution. And, without free will, politics itself becomes unseated.

Speaker: Ellie Lee is Reader of Social Policy at the University of Kent. Her research focuses on the evolution of family and health policy. She is the author of Abortion, Motherhood and Mental Health: Medicalizing Reproduction in the US and Britain (2003), co-author of Parenting Culture Studies (2014), and Director of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies.

Heidegger and the Rejection of Modernity

Martin HeideggerSaturday 5 December

City Workshop (Second Floor)

Martin Heidegger is considered one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. Though he’d been a proud, unapologetic member of the Nazi party, his thought has resonated with, and influenced, the left just as much as the right. Heidegger’s main claim was that Western metaphysics since the ancient Greeks had developed only a very superficial understanding of what it is to be. Heidegger set out to create a way of thinking capable of grasping the very nature of existence, and, in doing so, revolutionised philosophy.

However, his work didn't just provide a way of grasping the nature of existence; it also provided a critique of what he saw as the human-centred, over-rational and instrumental trajectory of modernity. And it is this profound rejection and critique of modernity, argues Tim Black, that continues to resonate with, and, thanks to Heidegger's Nazi sympathies, trouble, many people today.

Speaker: Tim Black is the books and essays editor of spiked. He is responsible for the spiked review of books, for which he’s written the reviews: Why they’re scared of Heidegger (November, 2009), and Hating modernity, hating the Jews: a reckoning with Heidegger (March 2015).

Event Partners

The Tetley

The Tetley is a centre for contemporary art and learning, located in the former headquarters of the world-famous Tetley Brewery on Hunslet Road. Visit their website at: www.thetetley.org/


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